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Rot · FiM Minific ·
Organised by RogerDodger
Word limit 400–750
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Grave Matters
It had rained most of the day and with the deluge a chill spread across the land. By nightfall a pony could see his breath in the dim moonlight. It was the same light that stretched the shadows of the cemetery’s headstones toward a pit cast in an amber glow.

On the edge of the freshly dug grave stood Keeper, a pony whose mottled fur of brown and gray fit his job that night. He was about fifty and occasionally fired a stream of tobacco juice into the pit where his assistant continued to deepen the hole.

“You jerk,” growled the assistant, “That one almost got me!”

“Quit yer belly achin’ lad,” fired back Keeper, “You’ve got feet to go yet.”

The assistant gazed at Keeper through round dark glasses. From behind them Keeper could feel the glower. Keeper leaned on his shovel as he looked down at the pony in the pit. He wondered how the lad kept the scarf up as well as he did and but was certain as to the reason he smelled an over abundance of cologne wafting from within. “Had plans did ye? Young colt like you always has plans.”

The assistant said nothing and continued to dig. The sound of steel in soil was his only response for the better part of an hour. By the assistant’s count he’d dug another two feet before he stopped and arched his back until it popped loudly. “So, who’re we putting here?”

Keeper spit another stream of tobacco into the pit, this time away from his assistant. “Filly named Edel Weiss or maybe that’s all one word. Famous you know,” said Keeper who then promptly spit the rest of his chaw onto the grass next to him.

“Never heard of her.”

“Aye well lad she held a very important record. For a decade and a half she kept her virginity,” Keeper smiled a tobacco stained grin, “Not a bad record for this vicinity.”

“Be serious would you.”

“Aye but I am. Tragic what happened to her though,” said Keeper as he averted his eyes, “Run over by a Linenblücher cart while drunk on the same. She was no more than twenty-two the way I hear it.” Keeper looked into the hole, “Looks like seven feet deep give or take an inch.”

“So, I’m done,” asked the assistant.

“Two more feet,” replied Keeper, “I started it but you’ve got youth and energy on your side my lad. You can finish it.”

“Six is normal!”

“So’s listenin’ to yer boss which is me,” growled back Keeper, “Now keep digging.”

The pair fell into silence again. The sound of the assistant’s shovel scraping along the dirt was the only notable sound. Soon the wind picked up and whistled among the stones and markers. Keeper pulled his jacket tighter about him and gazed along the many rows and sighed. By now he knew the names of most of the markers. Some of them had been friends.

Keeper lowered his eyes to the ground and hid his melancholy from the wind. He’d hated to do it. However, the job required him to do so and he did it to the best of his ability.

“It seems a shame,” said the assistant as he dug.

“What does,” said Keeper.

“What happened to Edel? I bet she had plans and loved ones beyond what you’ve described. It must be hard for…”

“How deep are you?”

The assistant looked about himself, “I don’t know I’m going to have to jump to get out and you’ll have to lend a hoof to pull me out.”

“Deep enough then,” said Keeper as he beckoned, “Up lad.”

First the assistant tossed his shovel out of the pit. Then he reared back and jumped, his front hooves catching the lip of the grave. For a moment he struggled to pull himself up until he looked up and saw Keeper raise his shovel. “What are…”

Without a word Keeper brought the shovel down hard across the forehead of his assistant sending him back into the grave. Keeper dropped one of the lanterns by where he’d fallen, its dim light revealed the partially rotted face and missing eye of the assistant.

The assistant moaned, “It wasn’t fair I was supposed to marry when I got ill. I was cheated!”

“Life ain’t fair lad, but the dead ain’t allowed rise either,” said as Keeper raised a large stone and dropped it on the corpse. Then, quietly he finished the job.
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#1 · 3
· · >>CoffeeMinion
I find myself:

Full of questions. If this is actually Keeper's assistant, I'd expect some more emotion from the old pony--having to kill a friend who's just died might well be a disturbing experience. And if it isn't his assistant, why is he assisting him? The whole situation doesn't make sense to me, in fact. I just can't see how the two of them would've gotten to this point. Maybe start the story with the scene before this when you expand it for posting on Fimfiction to set up why the assistant is here and not heading into town to see his fiancee.

There are also lots of commas that should be periods in your dialogue tags: the one after "assistant" in “You jerk,” growled the assistant, “That one almost got me!”, for instance, and the one after "Keeper" in “Quit yer belly achin’ lad,” fired back Keeper, “You’ve got feet to go yet.” And when you use "ask" in a dialogue tag, the dialogue really oughtta end with a question mark... :)

#2 · 3
Lots of punctuation oddities in need of an editing pass. This is especially important because the assistant's last line is very difficult to parse... It wasn't fair that he got ill at the same time he got engaged? His becoming ill is what lead to his to-be-married-ness, and something about that is unfair? As-written, it makes no sense, so I'm lead to conclude that something critical is missing.

Also, as the assistant's face is partially rotten, is this part of his disease, and/or connected to the scarf and cologne mentioned earlier? Alternatively, was the assistant actually dead the entire time?

I cannot understand what these characters are actually doing or what their motivations might be.

Needs work.
#3 · 2
Genre: Horrible Bosses: Extreme Edition

Thoughts: I truly hate to post "me too" so early in a reviews thread, but I find myself equally as full of questions as >>Baal Bunny seems to be. Before I get to that, though, I should say that I enjoyed the dark vibe that this presented, and I became more invested as the story started dropping thematic and textual hints that pointed in the direction of Keeper doing-in his assistant when all was said and done. So in that sense, I'd say there's some good material here, and even a fair bit of hook!

However, the revelation of the assistant being undead... just totally comes 100% out of nowhere. It also doesn't pay off the Edel Weiss stuff that was built up in the middle, nor the assistant's ostensible plans for later. I don't know how to square that at all with the rest of the story.

But, with that said, I think you're onto something here for much of this. It's moody and interesting. It could use some grammar/spelling cleanup, but the good stuff shines through.

Tier: Keep Developing
#4 · 3
See, this worked for me, because while I didn't suspect anything on a first read, after the reveal I went back and saw clues. The reason for the cologne -- not the assistant's plans (although that ties in with what the assistant said about Edel, which was really him talking about himself) but the fact that he's covering his smell of death. Keeper hates to do it -- why? Digging a grave isn't a horrible thing to do; it's just a job that needs doing. But driving the dead back into their graves, particularly if some of them were friends, qualifies. Edel's obviously a red herring (famous for keeping her virginity? Really?) and probably doesn't exist except as an excuse to get the assistant to dig a grave.

That being said, Baal Bunny makes a good point -- if the assistant has risen from the dead, why is he doing his job, which presumably he did for money, rather than returning to his loved ones? Some setup for that would be good. Doesn't really make sense that an undead who came back because he was going to get married is spending his undeath working.
#5 · 1
So this one really has a nice, distinctive flavor of mood. You do a lot of things that build on that mood, like giving Keeper such a spartan name and not even giving the assistant one at all. It alienates the reader, but in a way that's conducive to the overall tone.

Still, I might be having trouble with overall payoff with this one. For one thing, this doesn't feel particularly pony-ish to me. Swap out a couple of identifying nouns, and I think this story fits a gothic dark fantasy universe better than it fits the MLP one. This is a YMMV sort of thing, but I personally place quite a bit of my enjoyment of a fic on how well it utilizes the characters and setting of MLP, so for me, the general detachment from the canon universe is a damper on my experience.

Another issue that I had is that the twist, while certainly unexpected, doesn't really give any new insight to the events and themes here. As a result, it feels kind of empty, since it's not playing into the main structure of the narrative that I'd hope a twist would.

So overall, I'm not entirely satisfied with the way it hangs together in the end, despite how much I enjoyed the mood and atmosphere.

Thank you for submitting!